Kalki and Tolkien

I’m lucky in many ways. To reveal one, I would have to speak of my decision to read The Lord of the Rings and Ponniyin Selvan side-by-side. (I know LotR must have been read long back, but then I didn’t possess a sweet tooth for fantasy … until recently.)

Tolkien’s (1892-1973) LotR and Kalki Krishnamurthy’s (1899-1954) Ponniyin Selvan have many similarities, apart from the fact that they both were made public in the early 1950s.

I will leave the enumeration of the similarities to readers who have completed both the books (I’m still in the last book of both the epic tales.) I will rather speak of one small fragment that incited this piece of writing. I was reading Ponniyin Selvan yesterday night: the portion where the Thalapathy from the Lanka war returns to Tanjore massing an army. One particular line of Kalki’s description goes like this: தீவர்த்தி வெளிச்சம் தெரிந்த்து. அந்த வெளிச்சத்தில் வேல்களின் முனைகள் ஒளி வீசித் திகழ்ந்தன. Now this induced Déjà vu in me. Perplexed, I thought deeply. The shining of the tips of the spears? Oh, yes! It was during Aragorn’s journey (with king Théoden and co.) towards Helm’s Deep in the third book. Tolkien describes the arrival of Aragorn’s friends from the north, and one particular line in it is: The moonlight glinted here and there on the points of spears.

Isn’t it amazing? I understand it might sound weak and uninteresting to many; but for two writers – who breathed worlds apart and wrote their masterpieces at nearly the same time – to have imagined so trivial a detail in exactly the same way… if that is not hair-raising, I wonder what is!

P.S.: Do read the two books together. Goosebumps guaranteed.

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